, March 28, 2023

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Frequently-Asked Questions about Advertising - Part III


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Frequently-Asked Questions about Advertising - Part III

On exactly his 50th year in advertising, Vincent R. Pozon -- Vince to most, 'Koyang' to adfolk, 'Tatay' to his students and present staff --  decided to start a series of articles where he answers questions often asked of him.

This article is the third installment of the conversation. He hopes it can be of value to the young and the newcomer.


What advice do you have for people entering advertising?

Koyang: Learn from others, then look for home.

Consider your first jobs as temporary learning experiences, keeping in mind that the rest of your working life should be in a more comfortable or less stressful environment, because it is a stressful industry.

What is a good first agency?

Koyang: I tell graduating students to choose their first job very carefully, because the first job has the capacity to improve or degrade their personal values -- how to regard customers and officemates. The first shop is where you learn about ethics and work attitudes -- good and bad. There are actually agencies that are obsessed with trophies and trinkets and make award-winning a requirement, (which is of course fine if you do like trophies and trinkets). I have worked in firms that had scorching memo wars, backstabbing, were cleaved by factions. They are environments that diminish ambition, darken the spirit, wear you down. And the attitudes and moods of the day you bring home to the family.

Why is the advice specifically for the first agency?

Koyang: Not necessarily only the first, just keep in mind that what you experience in a bad place, you carry with you. The trauma and the fear derived, the need to protect yourself, to keep looking over your shoulder, they are difficult to unlearn. And you might infect your new agency.

What if someone is unhappy in the job he applied for?

Koyang: I made this slogan which I repeat often, "Get a joy, not a job". If someone feels he isn't where he should be, sooner or later, the predilection or desire to do something else will grow, and not respecting it will cause trouble to co-workers and to his health.

What advertising job should I aim for?

Koyang: In my half a century in this business, I have worked with too many people who would rather be doing something else. When the heart's not in it, it will show in the work.

So again – "get a joy, not a job." Go for what you think is right for you, and let actual work results and supervisors either confirm your decision or help you in finding the work you would love to spend decades doing.

What if my next agency is drastically differently from the previous?

Koyang: Respect both, respect their thinking, priorities and ways of doing things. Say the first agency is accounts-led, meaning more strategic, and the second creative-led, the proverb "when in Rome, do as the Romans do" applies. They obey hallowed templates of global companies, writ in headquarters. Learn from both. And always respect the hand that puts food on your table.

You never pit one agency against the other, and you never say, "where I came from..." That's the fastest way to get into trouble.

The wisdom you found valuable in the first agency? You apply to your work, and quietly.

What if I realize after years in advertising that it really isn't for me?

Koyang: If you discover that advertising isn't for you, leave right away. For the sake of the work, for the company, for harmony, and for the sake of your mental health. Every day that you spend staying where you shouldn't be is a day spent not doing what you should be doing. There will be tension, a general unhappiness and dissatisfaction– the work will not be blessed.

I am in accounts but I am not happy. Is it possible to move from accounts to creative?

Koyang: I have worked with accounts people who I think would be great copywriters. One of the best copywriters I have had the pleasure of working with climbed the fence, so to speak, moving from account management to creative in the same advertising agency. I recently asked Tessa Razon Artadi to recount what transpired decades ago.

"The accounts bosses didn’t know what to do with me. I didn’t have a good understanding and appreciation of the business, of why I had to do status reports, and contact reports. I was bored and uninspired.

"You came in and told Mancom, 'I'll give her a chance. If she messes up, I’ll get rid of her.'

"You did give me a chance. And I am grateful.'"

Tessa has worked with me in two advertising agencies. She is now a successful marketing and communications head handling the needs of a large conglomerate in shipping and logistics, tourism, hospitality, education, ICT, property development, energy, food retail.

The advantage to moving to another department within the same agency is that you are a known entity. You have friends.

TESSA RAZON ARTADI. From account manager to copywriter and today a successful marketing and communications head handling the needs of a large conglomerate.

I am fresh out of college, what do I do in my first days or weeks in a job?

Koyang: I encourage probationary staff, interns and practicum students to be sponges, to learn as much as they can, to bug people. At a shoot, to bug the agency people there, bug the producer. People standing quietly at the back of the room, trying to appear prim and proper, fiddling with their phones, won't get anywhere and won't get hired.

Be a sponge. If you don't get permanency, at least, you learned.

Is it true that ad people are always working overtime?

Koyang: It is their template, an unquestioned modus vivendi. And it is wrong. Advertising is notorious for its work hours. It relies heavily on the hard worker and leaves it to him to balance the demands between home and office. Almost with malice, it makes sure there is no time for the family. Japan’s legendary work ethic created a lost generation, an expensive price for keeping the pendulum stuck to one end.

I read somewhere that advertising is an industry distinguished by a higher percentage of broken marriages.

As for Japan, the bubble burst, the clock broke and there is a mountain so preferred as a suicide site that they post dissuading messages along the way.

So it can be fixed?

Koyang: It can. But it needs a major change in perspective. In the last 33 years, I have been working in independent agencies, which means no large multinational entities acting as guardian angels to the business, and no aligned accounts falling on our laps. When I was tasked to manage the company, not just the creative department, when I began to understand balance sheets and see the writing on the wall, I realized that, to survive, to be built to last, to compete against multinational behemoths, the company can ill afford to immolate people at the altar of Success.

Work hard, yes, but don't be hard on people.

So no more overtime?

Koyang: Overtime is greatly discouraged. If people are working overtime regularly, there’s something to fix in the system, there is an inadequacy in staffing, or in the organization.

A myriad of solutions – an hour of brainpicking instead of brainstorming lasting days and nights, business teams instead of departments, a Telegram thread per project, and other ways of getting people to work together instead of individually –  were developed to make things faster and more efficient. Plus, when people do get sick, they're covered medically.

The concern for people – for their health -- as well as the worksmart solutions need not just approval but enthusiastic buy-in from owners and top management though.


Vincent R. Pozon

After a year of college, Koyang entered advertising, and there he stayed for half a century, in various agencies, multinational and local. He is known for aberrant strategic successes (e.g., Clusivol’s ‘Bawal Magkasakit’, Promil’s ‘The Gifted Child’, RiteMED’s ‘May RiteMED ba nito?”). He is chairman of Estima, an ad agency dedicated to helping local industrialists, causes and candidates. He is co-founder and counselor for advertising, public relations, and crisis management of Caucus, Inc., a multi-discipline consultancy firm. He can be reached through vpozon@me.com.


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